Happy together

Happy together

As recently as five years ago Turkey had a happy story to tell – and sell. Its “moderate” Islamists would be the role model in the Arab world; borders in the Middle East would be as peaceful as the U.S.-Canadian border; the Crescent and Star’s “rise and rise” would eventually amount to the revival of the Ottoman Empire; all Arab nations would come under the rich and proud Sunni-Turkish flag; Western (Christian) countries would be kicked out of our Muslim backyard; Quds would be re-conquered; there would be a Muslim EU and a Muslim NATO; Arab nations would be ruled by Muslim Brothers subservient to the Turkish empire; Turkey would be the broker in any regional conflict; it would be the Muslim pillar of interfaith dialogue around the world, the blessed peace-maker… Even the century-long Turkish-Kurdish conflict would end in a Nobel Peace Prize-winning handshake. We would be happy together.

Although the Turkish book of fairy tales became a “non-fiction” best-seller in the West, no other story could have been more absurd and away from reality. As your columnist often noted at the time of the release of the Turkish book of fairy tales: A country that is at war with its non-Turkish, non-Sunni, non-pious-but-Sunni and secular populaces CANNOT be at peace with other faiths and nations. 

Five years later, most borders in the Middle East look not like the U.S.-Canadian border but more like the Afghan-Pakistani border; the Crescent and Star’s “fall and fall” is all too visible; most Arab nations feel the same contempt for the Turks they felt a century ago; Western (Christian) countries are more than welcome in our Muslim backyard; a Muslim EU and a Muslim NATO are not just bad jokes but terribly bad jokes; Muslim Brothers are not in power in their respective countries, nor subservient to the Turkish empire; Turkey is in a more violent war with its non-Turkish, non-Sunni, non-pious-but-Sunni and secular populaces; and interfaith dialogue is no more than a fancy concept no one recalls. Worse, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict is taking lives daily in a renewed wave of violence reminiscent of the 1990s. 

The man who visited Syria 62 times and advised Syria’s president, “our dear friend and brother” Bashar al-Assad, on an immediate change of course in favor of the ballot box (but did not advise the same to the royal families ruling Saudi Arabia or Qatar) today calls the tragedies of 2 million or so Syrian refugees who flock to Europe when they can an “epic” story. 

Inevitably, there are also the domestic repercussions of that epic tale. In the World Happiness index of 158 countries, Turkey ranked 76th in the years 2012-2014, a worse score than El Salvador, Guatemala, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Libya (even Libya!), Algeria, Kosovo and Turkmenistan. Not quite the role model Turkey was supposed to be for the nations strolling down the Arab street. What would have been the role model to other Muslim nations is not a happy country itself. 

And unsurprisingly, the would-be, blessed peace-maker does not have peace at home. Turkey ranked 135th out of 162 countries listed in the Global Peace Index (GPI) produced by the Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). 

(The index, produced by an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes to think tanks, with data collected and collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit, measures global peace using three combined major factors: the level of safety and security in society; the extent of domestic and international conflict; and the degree of militarization.)

Turkey’s ranking in 135th place was announced before the new wave of violence started to kill every day. So, there is every reason to expect a more embarrassing ranking next year. 

With a per capita income of barely $10,000, an unhappy land where there is no peace, Turkey thinks it still has an epic story to tell – and sell. A few years ago, the story sold well in the non-fiction category. It still might sell – this time in the black humor genre.